The Rooster That Fell from the Sky

A Heights boy reunites with his pet

On a cold, gray afternoon last week, Becky Earle was visiting her Woodland Heights neighbor Margaret Storer. Their chat in Storer's back driveway off Tenth Street was interrupted by the sudden barking of Storer's white boxer, Tilly. Earle recalls that the yelping sounded "like a danger bark," but the two neighbors saw nothing unusual in the backyard to upset the dog.

Then Earle glanced skyward.

A large brown mass came flying toward her, swerving and diving erratically toward the ground. "I thought, 'Holy shit! Look at the size of that thing!' "

Two birds -- a powerful red-tailed hawk and a rooster struggling in its clutches -- were zooming in. Earle says the rooster was putting up a game fight to free itself from the hawk's sharp talons. Within seconds, the hawk dropped its dinner about ten feet from Earle. "It went plop!right on the driveway," she says. "It landed like a wet bag of cement, except feathers flew up."

A squawking, panicked brown-and-white bantam rooster came sprinting out of the flurry of feathers. Meanwhile, the hawk perched in some nearby pine branches, appearing to ready itself for another sortie on its lost prey. Earle recognized the rooster's plight, gave chase and trapped the bird against a fence. She hustled the bruised bird into Storer's home. "He was really cute," Earle says.

The two women realized they had a crowing mystery on their hands. The bantam brawler -- despite having been kidnapped by a much larger killer, smashed into the concrete and captured by a stranger -- quickly turned friendly. The women discovered his leg tag and clipped wings and concluded that the bird must belong to someone. And the owner, they realized, probably lived in the area.

Soon the neighborhood and its civic organization's Web site, woodland-heightsinfo.org, were sporting notices: "Found: small brown and white rooster," along with Storer's phone number.


David Dennison Jr. loves poultry. The seven-year-old Travis Elementary student "has had this thing about chickens since he was a baby," says his mother, Annette. "When we took him to the Houston Livestock Show, he went straight towards the chickens. He wasn't interested in anything else."

Last summer, David's parents bought him three bantam roosters at Quality Feed Store. David waters, feeds and frolics with them every day. "They're small, and you can play with them," he explains. "I like to watch them run around in circles chasing each other."

David says his roosters are tame. "They're just so cool. You can hold them and rock them and they pretend to go to sleep."

After school on January 13, David went outside to check on his pets. He saw feathers littering the backyard and immediately knew something was wrong. David discovered one fowl was AWOL. "I felt nervous," he says. "I thought the cats got him." "I thought it was a goner," says Annette.

Before dark, the Dennisons' phone rang. The mother of David's closest playmate told them she had noticed an ominous Web site posting about a frayed but found bird. She'd called Storer and told her, "I think that rooster belongs to one of my son's friends."

The Dennisons were soon in touch with Becky Earle, who had transformed a cat carrier into a makeshift coop and taken the rooster to her home.

David, figuring he'd need some type of positive identification to reclaim his pet, went to work gathering up the feathers from his backyard.

"It was the sweetest thing you ever saw," Earle says. "He had the feathers in a plastic bag, and thought we'd want to see them so we'd know it was his rooster. He was so excited and so glad."

Hours after the rooster's return, Heights residents were still contacting the women with offers to adopt the bird. "Margaret called and said we needed to go take all those notices down because she was getting so many calls," Earle laughs.

As for David's roosters, their free-range run of the backyard has come to an end. His mother explains that hawks can often be seen atop telephone poles and trees near their Woodland Heights home, so security has been tightened. David's pets are now allowed out of their coop only while he is personally supervising their recreation time.

None of the roosters had names before. Last week, the pluckiest of them became known as Lucky.

 
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